Important Conversations

My Regular Mind, April 5, 2011 at 12h13

I’ve been thinking about important conversations lately. Presently in my Great Big Project, a main character is having one of those Important Conversations. Once this conversation is over, the climax will unfold, and shortly after that, it will all conclude. I’m fairly certain how the story will end, and I’m equally certain that a fair amount of what I want to say will be left out.

It’s a minor torment. This story has been on my mind for nearly seven years, and in that time I’ve thought of many details. It feels like a shame to have wasted that time, though I do understand that it wasn’t all a waste. Many details have now become unnecessary, except to explain the backstory, which leaves me with ample material to work from if I ever have to write a prequel. I hope not to.

We never really know when one of these Important Conversations will happen, do we? Nobody tells you at the time, so it’s not until perhaps years later when you realize the impact it had.

I’m going to be busier than usual these upcoming few months. As excited as I am, the thought that I’ll have less time to work on this nearly-completed project is frustrating. I can nearly see the end. It’s right there.

The Riddle

My Regular Mind, March 25, 2011 at 01h50

My local favourite coffee shop usually has a riddle posted at the counter, and when I went in this morning, the riddle was this:

What is most useful when it’s broken?

I scratched my head for a while as I thought it through.

Finally, I asked, “Is it a piggy bank?”

It wasn’t. Or at least, he said, not the answer they had. I stepped back and thought it through again. Finally, when my tea was ready and I had no more guesses, I asked for the answer.

“An egg,” he said.

“Aww, that’s not right,” I replied. “Piggy bank’s a better answer than egg.”

This is my reasoning. An egg brings life into the world, which to me seems like the most useful application of anything. If it’s broken, it’s completely useless, except of course – as the riddle implies – if you’re eating it.

Whereas a piggy bank contains money, and when it breaks, you can buy something awesome. Seriously, you can get anything you want. A broken piggy bank could even buy more food than what you’d get from eating a broken egg! Even math agrees with me!

The barrista, however, did not. And since it’s his place, he gets to decide the answers to his riddles.

But since this is my web site…

The correct answer is piggy bank.

Comicle #10: Natural Hunters

Comicles, March 14, 2011 at 11h37

Believe it or not, eating wasn’t always as easy as going to a restaurant and picking something from the menu. In fact, there was a time when humans didn’t even have grocery stores! Yes, I know it’s hard to believe while sitting in front of your computer only steps away from your refrigerator, but it’s true.

Popular science has a fairly convincing timeline that, for humans, begins around when we started to create tools to obtain food. We used these tools for hunting, foraging, and of course primitive fondue parties. As our tools became more sophisticated, our agrarian civilizations began. Fast forward several thousand years and we can barely recognize ourselves as coming from such hard-working ancestors as those. Today life is so much different that given the same tools that were available back then, most of us probably wouldn’t survive a week.

Despite this, some people assert that humans are natural predators, which is often used to justify modern non-predatorial eating habits. I used this argument too when I was an omnivore, even though I rarely ate the animals that I killed. Nowadays, I tend to believe that humans used to be natural predators, but if we actually had to hunt again, I don’t think it would come naturally. We might know what to do, but actually doing it well enough to survive is a different matter indeed. These days the most fighting we do for food is over the last slice of pizza.

Regardless of the few physical characteristics that might put humans in the ‘predator’ category, I think it’s pretty obvious that ordering a hamburger isn’t the same as tracking a cow by smell and ripping her apart with your teeth. We might like to think of ourselves as the superior species at the top of our food chain, but perhaps it would be more accurate to use our current habits to define ourselves now: former predators (once removed) whose diets revolve around the weekly value menu and marketing. Oh, and whatever Oprah’s eating.

Five Quick Writing Tips

My Regular Mind, March 8, 2011 at 10h09

Recently a friend asked me for some writing advice. Truth is I don’t really have any advice of my own. Writing isn’t easy, and there really aren’t any specific checklists you can follow. It can take years of work to create art, and even at its end it may never be perfect. Writing is more of a commitment than a straightjacket.

I’ve snooped through essays and interviews of my favourite authors, and from this I’ve whittled down their advice down to five convenient mottos that make sense to me.

Please yourself. If you don’t like what you’re writing, why should anyone else?

Explore every possibility. Consider that characters have minds of their own, and they might not react to a situation exactly how you might expect. Let them surprise you.

Reveal or advance. In a story, every word is important. You want to get to the point as quickly as possible, so every single sentence should reveal a character or theme, or advance the plot. Respect the reader’s time.

Kill your darlings. When an author comes up a story, it often comes along with specific ideas they want to incorporate, like a character, some dialogue, or even an entire scene. As the story develops and they don’t quite make as much sense in the story, they’re hard to let go. Kill them.

There are no rules. This is kind of a writing advice wildcard. Do what you want. Colour outside the lines, think outside the sphere, let your imagination loose. That’s what a reader really wants.


My Regular Mind, February 28, 2011 at 01h48

Some time last week, I didn’t sleep well. In the middle of the night, I heard a loud, loud noise that sprung me immediately to my feet. I stood beside the bed confused, adjusting to my surroundings. My girlfriend tends to sleep lightly, and yet she was undisturbed. Had there been no loud, loud noise at all? Was it the sound of my feet hitting the floor that sounded to me like thunder? Hesitantly, I returned to our bed, and eventually, once again, to sleep.

And then yesterday, after a slightly delayed flight and then a long drive, I was back in my home town. I did not sleep uninterrupted. Once again, I woke up in a similar confused way, slowly adjusting to my surroundings.

Something similar happened years and years ago. I can’t imagine what similarities between then and now might be causing this unusual restlessness. At times, I worry about things like sleepwalking, even though I’ve never had a history of it. Never even an incident. But the thing I worry about is not knowing if perhaps there was.

Questions Over Anger

My Regular Mind, February 22, 2011 at 12h28

Everywhere I go, all over this city, it’s the same. The buildings, the signs. People are peaceful. And yet I realize that other places are not like this. At any given moment, in some city somewhere, people are fighting. Some people

Half-demolished buildings wondering when they’ll eat next.

I can’t understand the anger that war requires. Where does it come from? Is it fear of others? A misunderstanding of love? Are we over-compensating for some inadequacy, perhaps acting upon some systemic emotional conditioning?

Shouldn’t be too difficult for me to project a theoretical anger based

Mostly the Story of Avi

My Regular Mind, January 30, 2011 at 11h53

Almost a year ago, I had finished eating an avocado and decided to put the seed in a planter. A few months later there was a stem sprouting from the seed, with some little green leaves flourishing at the top! I was fascinated by the insistence of life, which is what inspired me to plant a balcony garden. I’ve taken pictures of Little Avi’s progress over time, such as the day he got his own place. He loves his new digs.

On the way home last night I shared a taxi with an Austrian couple. They’d been in Vancouver for six months, and I asked what they thought about it so far. In Austria, he said, he only paid fifteen dollars a month for the equivalent cell phone package he has now. Here, though, he pays sixty. To be honest, mine is even more than that, which is all very absurd. Those companies must return substantial profits.

There’s a lot of growth in that industry these days.

Leave it to a night at the bar to remind me why I spend very few nights at bars. When I was younger, I didn’t mind that the music was too loud, and I didn’t mind that it was too cramped. I guess this is one of the hundred other indicators that I’m getting older.

Avi too. Just under a year old, and just over a meter tall. He’s a perfect reminder that if the conditions are right, you have to use the opportunity to thrive. Do something you love doing long enough and it’s bound to pay off. Otherwise, who knows, maybe you didn’t really love it as much as you thought.

Excitement Abound

My Regular Mind, January 27, 2011 at 06h08

Without exaggeration, I can say that I haven’t been this excited about music in a long time. I’ve been exploring my guitar again, and now there’s a beautiful puzzle unlocking at my fingertips. I’m seeing sounds as shapes now, hearing subtleties I’ve never noticed. A complex system of notes and patterns that make sense in a way I’ve never known. For the first time in fifteen years, I’m starting to understand this instrument. It’s all very, very exciting.

On a related note, the Great Big Project is becoming more defined. All these stray ideas are coming together in harmony; characters are developing, plot is advancing, conflict is building. I used to know how it was all going to end, but now I’m not so sure. Even I can’t predict it any more.

I’ve been looking at various web sites that may help me develop my own future. I’m seeing opportunities at every inconvenience. Possibilities. There’s a theory that exists wherein every possible decision creates its own alternate universe. In one of them I might be a pilot, in another a rock star, and in another I’m sitting here in this same chair with a different shirt on. Nobody really knows where any decision will lead, but I think that when we do what we love, we compile good decisions that lead to good outcomes.

I’ve got a pretty solid compilation going on. Let’s see how this all plays out.

Catching Up

My Regular Mind, January 12, 2011 at 03h24

These are the conditions where Vancouver shuts down. Overnight snow, morning rain, a city covered in dreary frozen slush. I saw a bus this morning give up at Vine Street, and you can tell everyone feels the same way. In this weather, the city just stands still, a remarkable feat for such a busy place.

Last week I was the key witness of an assault. The mindlessness of it all sits in my memory, reminding me of how sudden everything can be. We’re in such a rush that we lose our minds over things that don’t matter.

Maybe this weather is the universe telling us to slow down. Racing from one moment to the next, we barely see the blur in-between.

This new year has aged me. We do grown-up things without even noticing them, and then one day it all catches up. We realize exactly where we are.

Be mindful that time does pass by, that good things do come, and then go. Each moment will be the only one like it. Focus. Make it the one you want.

Comicle #9: Rich In Irony

Comicles, January 2, 2011 at 09h29

This Comicle has been been kicking around in my head for a long time now. In it, a generic Animal Welfare Society is raising money by selling hot dogs. The idea didn’t just spring up out of nowhere, though, it’s based on something that I actually saw years ago. See, even before I stopped eating animals, I knew that hot dogs were made from various animal parts. You can imagine how surprised I was to see this booth raising money to save some animals by cooking other animals.

Some people don’t have a problem with this irony, though. There’s a fairly prevalent belief that some animals deserve our compassion while others do not, an opinion often based on things like cultural traditions, animal personalities, appearance, and taste. I no longer share this belief. I think it’s an outdated habit that we could all benefit from revising, because after all, isn’t that how societies evolve, by changing the habits that no longer quite make sense?